Wednesday, December 27, 2006

With Friends Like These

When I voted for President Bush during the 2000 election and the 2004 election, I did so in large part because he had paid lip service to the pro-life movement, whereas both Al Gore and John Kerry had openly paid homage to the abortion industry. To some extent, I knew that Bush's claims amounted to lip service, but I felt that even lip service was better than no service at all.

I passionately felt and still feel that abortion was and is the most important issue facing our nation. It wasn't that I didn't care about other issues. But public acceptance of an act which takes roughly a million innocent American human lives every year (and which took up to 1.5 million lives a year for many years) has got to qualify as a major national crisis.

It was clear, even during the 2000 election, that Bush was hardly the dream candidate I might have wished for. He seemed to want to take little baby steps in terms of moving the nation in a direction consistent with complete respect for all phases of human life. I would have much preferred an articulate and passionate pro-life spokesperson such as Alan Keyes, because Keyes really seemed to care about the unborn victims of abortion. But baby steps are better than no steps at all, and thanks to the inequitable way in which national primaries are held, I never got the chance to vote for Keyes when he was a candidate for President. So I took what I could get.

Sadly, with very few exceptions, Bush has consistently put the pro-life issue on the back burner in terms of his priorities. In that respect, he is not noticeably different from his father.

I realize that the war on terrorism and the war on Iraq were both important in Bush's mind, but even if he was right about both issues (and that's highly debatable in the case of Iraq), the fact of the matter is that the total number of people killed by both Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein combined are miniscule compared with the numbers of people legally killed every year by abortionists in the United States during the past 30 plus years.

Considering the extent to which the abortion issue and the pro-life vote played a major role in putting Bush in office and keeping him there, the fact that Bush has done so little to advance the pro-life cause seems like a betrayal to me. In my opinion, the significant political losses Republicans experienced in 2006 are due not only to Bush's mishandling of the war in Iraq, but also to the fact that most pro-life Republicans found it very hard to get excited about a political party which had promised much but delivered very little (despite its simultaneous control of the Senate, the House and the Presidency) in terms of saving unborn children.

One of the saddest ironies when it comes to the abortion issue is the extent to which Republicans, who are often characterized as defenders of the unborn, have played a role in terms of aiding and abetting the defenders of legal abortion time and time again.

After all, it was Nixon, not Kennedy or Johnson, who appointed Harry Blackmun, the Chief Justice who wrote the majority opinion in Roe v. Wade.

Later, when Nixon resigned amidst the scandal of Watergate, his successor Gerald Ford appointed Justice John Paul Stevens to the Supreme Court. According to this article, Stevens "joined a 2000 decision called Stenberg v. Carhart in which the court struck down a Nebraska law banning so-called 'partial-birth' abortions."

With "friends" like Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon, the pro-life movement needed no enemies. (Admittedly, there was no pro-life movement when Nixon first came into power. It was partially on account of Nixon's appointment of Harry Blackmun that such a movement became necessary.)

Gerald Ford took office a year after Roe v. Wade was made into law. If Ford had had any pro-life principles at all, he would have expended a considerable amount of effort making sure that the next judicial appointment went to a man who recognized the stupidity of the Roe v. Wade decision. Say what you will about Nixon, but at least he can be excused to some extent by the possibility that he may not have realized that Harry Blackmun would vote to overturn the abortion laws of most of the states in the union. Gerald Ford had no such excuse.

Instead of doing his best to appoint a judge who would have helped to overthrow Roe v. Wade, Ford turned the entire appointment process over to Attorney General Edward Levi, whose primary criterion when selecting Stevens seems to have been that the two men were buddies from Chicago, where Stevens was serving as a federal appeals court judge and where Levi had been the president of the University of Chicago. (Those who now blame Donald Rumsfeld for much that has gone wrong in Iraq should also pause to consider that Rumsfeld's suggestions to Ford regarding Edward Levi played a significant role in Ford's choice of Levi and in Levi's subsequent choice of John Paul Stevens. It would appear that conservatives and liberals both have good reason to dislike Mr. Rumsfeld.)

Ford's choice of Levi was based on his desire for a person who was "nonpolitical". Apparently, he got what he wanted, in spades. Levi apparently cared more about personal friendships than he did about political principles, despite the fact that it was his job to insure that justice was done throughout the land. It isn't clear from what I've read whether Levi was pro-life himself or not, but if he was pro-life, then he was incompetent. He put his personal friendship with John Paul Stevens ahead of his job responsibilities.

According to MSNBC writer Tom Curry, Ford's most "profound" legacy was his appointment of John Paul Stevens. If appointing a man who helped to protect the status quo in terms of Roe v. Wade is Curry's idea of profundity, then Curry deserves to be in the pro-life hall of shame, along with Gerald Ford and our ostensibly pro-life president George W. Bush.

What does George W. Bush think of Gerald Ford? According to this article, Bush says Ford was a "great American". I beg to differ. Ford's legacy was to help insure that a bad judicial decision would remain in force for many years to come. And the fact that George W. Bush does not recognize that fact speaks volumes, it seems to me, about his level of intelligence and competence.

Am I sorry that I voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004? No. As bad as he was and is, his opponents were many times worse. But I may begin to obstain from the voting process altogether if the Republican party cannot begin to get its act together and elect principled Presidential candidates who can be counted on to represent the values of the numerous pro-life people like myself who, more often than not, have played a decisive role in putting them into office.

I am beginning to agree with those who use terms such as "Republicrats" to suggest that there isn't a very significant difference between the Republican party and the Democratic party anymore. This was made especially apparent during the 2006 gubernatorial race in Illinois.

Rod Blagojevitch had made some reprehensible decisions while in office, such as his executive order forcing pharmacists to violate their own consciences, by dispensing what they regarded as pharmaceutical abortifacients, in order to keep their jobs. (So much for "choice". Apparently, pharmacists ought not to have freedom of choice regarding whether or not their hands are stained with innocent blood.)

Nevertheless, Blagojevitch won, because his opponent, Judy Baar Topinka, and her running mate, Joe Birkett, were indistinguishable from the Democrats in terms of their positions on the issues of abortion and gay marriage.

Birkett, who had previously claimed to be pro-life, based his unprincipled alliance with Topinka on his belief that she was the only Republican who could beat Blagojevitch. I thought at the time that that was a major miscalculation on his part, and the election results would seem to bear that out.

Joe seemed oblivious to the fact that the only way to beat an incumbent politician is to offer voters a significantly better alternative and then to appeal to one's political base in order to insure that people who recognize the superiority of that alternative come out to vote. Topinka lost because she was basically Blagojevitch in a skirt, notwithstanding her specious claims that she was a Republican.

Ironically, now that Birkett's 2006 running mate has lost, Birkett is trying to regain credibility with pro-life Republicans by claiming to back certain marginally pro-life measures pertaining to parental consent. Here's what I'd say to Joe if I saw him face to face:

"Sorry, Joe, but conservative voters such as myself aren't buying it. We don't easily get amnesia. We won't forget you unprincipled alliance with Topinka in 2006 for a long, long time to come. By all means, do the right thing and vote in support of pro-life legislation. But don't expect it to do you any good in the next election. That ship has sailed. You had a chance to do the right thing when it would have counted the most, but you blew it, buddy."

What happened in Illinois was heartbreaking, but hardly unique. More often than not, the small difference which does exist between the two major political parties these days is a matter of rhetoric, not a matter of substantive action.

Which is worse? To proclaim that one is pro-abortion and then to demonstrate that that is indeed the case, or to proclaim that one is pro-life and then do nothing to change the status quo regarding legal abortion?

Say what you will about the Democrats, but at least they are honest about their pathetic and immoral indifference to the intrinsic value of human life. That doesn't make me any more likely to vote for them, but it does make me feel that I have been cheated out of the opportunity to vote for candidates who share my own priorities, not just in word but in deed.

UPDATE: It bears mentioning that when it comes to the 2008 presidential elections, there are some big differences between John McCain (who has said clearly that human life begins at conception) and Barack Obama (who not only claimed that answering such a question was "above (his) pay grade," but also opposed Illinois laws designed to prevent infanticide). For me, the choice is clear. Even though I'm not convinced that the pro-life agenda is at the top of McCain's list of priorities, it is at least on that list. Barack Obama's election would be a huge setback for the pro-life cause.

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